In recent years there has been a lot of buzz surrounding Manuka honey, which has proven increasingly popular among the public and celebrities alike. It has often been touted as a “superfood” with unique properties that promote a number of medicinal benefits, from soothing throats to staving off diabetes and promoting skin healing. Truth is golden: so what makes one of nature’s sweetest miracle “healers” special, and how can you make sure to get your hands on the real thing?
Manuka honey is a unique type of honey native to New Zealand. It is produced by bees that feed on the manuka plant, an evergreen shrub that grows wild on both the North and South Islands.
Manuka has a long, interesting history, dating back to over a thousand years ago, when the Maori tribes made extensive use of its strong wood to create their tools and weapons. A tea made by boiling the leaves was also used to treat colds and fevers.
Today, Manuka honey has been widely researched and its antibacterial potential is renowned worldwide – which has earnt it the label as one of nature’s most precious gifts.
Recent studies show Manuka honey can be helpful in treating wounds and leg ulcers and can even help to fight infection and boost healing.
So, what makes Manuka more special than regular honey?
Honey has been used in traditional medicine since ancient times and its antimicrobial properties are well documented, in ancient carvings and tablets and modern research alike.
It is also proven to have anti-inflammatory properties and has long been used to treat wounds and infections. But not all types of honey are the same – in fact, the darker it is, the higher the antioxidant content.
Today, most honey found on supermarket shelves is processed. This means they are pasteurised (heated at high temperatures) and filtered to help increase their shelf life and improve their appearance and taste.
This heating process, however, is also responsible for stripping some of the beneficial nutrients and antioxidants found in raw honey, such as vitamins and minerals that offer health benefits. These types of regular ‘culinary honey’ are always runny and available in a golden liquid form.
Manuka honey is subjected to very little processing. This means it is honey in its natural state, with all the natural ingredients retained, helping it to offer more powerful health benefits than regular honey. This is why it is both darker and thicker (and more difficult to spread).
In 2006 it was discovered that very high levels of naturally occurring Methylglyoxal (MGO) in Manuka honey are what’s responsible for its unique antimicrobial properties. MGO is a compound found in most types of honey, but usually only in small quantities.
The antimicrobial activity of different honeys varies greatly, depending on which flowers bees pollinate to produce honey.
How can you ensure you’re investing in the real thing?
Manuka honey is a type of monofloral honey, meaning the honey nectar is produced from one main flower – the Manuka flower.
Multiflora honey on the other hand is produced from the nectar of many flowers. This means it has either been blended by bees as they travel from flower to flower or mixed by the beekeeper or processing factory.
Until recently there was no single indicator for what constituted “real” Manuka Honey, which led to questions and confusion regarding the authenticity of this highly celebrated super-food.
In late 2017, however, the New Zealand government’s Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) finalised the first global scientific definition for Manuka Honey, to safeguard the reputation and credibility of one of the country’s most precious exports.
Now, all honey labelled as manuka for export must first be tested by an MPI-recognised laboratory to make sure it meets the new definition, which is made up of a combination of 5 attributes (4 chemicals from nectar and 1 DNA marker from manuka pollen). This includes, for example, testing the required level of methoxyacetophenone, a chemical which has only been found in manuka plants.
The difference between Monofloral and Multifloral Manuka honey serves as a key level of this standard, which helps to prevent attempts to blend different types of honey with specialised manuka honey.
Real manuka honey is sourced only from the manuka plant and contains different Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) ratings depending on the product, which reflects the concentration of MGO. For it to be considered potent enough to be therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF or MGO 263 and above.
Manuka Health at John Bell & Croyden
We have a wide selection of Manuka honey in store and online. Here are some of our favorites:
MANUKA HEALTH MGO 1000+
Manuka Honey Limited Edition
Ultra-high grade, premium New Zealand MGO™1000+ Manuka Honey. Certified for natural methylglyoxal content (At least 1000mg/kg) - scientifically proven to be a key natural compound in Manuka honey. MGO™ 1000+ Manuka Honey has a smooth, luscious taste to be savoured.
MANUKA HEALTH MGO 550+
Ultra high grade, premium New Zealand MGO™ 550+ Manuka Honey. Certified for natural methylglyoxal content (minimum 550mg/kg) - scientifically proven to be a key natural compound in Manuka honey. MGO™ 550+ Manuka Honey has a delicious rich flavour and a smooth velvety texture.